Saturday, October 31, 2015

Jouissance....and Jazz

Hamsadhvani (meaning Sound of Swans) also spelled as Hansadhwani, is a rāga in Carnatic music (musical scale of Carnatic tradition of Indian classical music). It is an audava rāgam (or owdava rāga, meaning pentatonic scale). It is a janya rāga (derived scale), as it does not have all the seven swaras (musical notes).

Hamsadhvani is also extensively used in Hindustani music and said to be borrowed into it from Carnatic music. It was created by the Carnatic composer Ramaswami Dikshitar (1735–1817) and brought into Hindustani music by Ustad Aman Ali Khan of the Bhendibazaar gharana.
The Source of the previous singer's 'vibrato'

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Thou comest, Autumn, heralded by the rain,
With banners, by great gales incessant fanned,
Brighter than brightest silks of Samarcand,
And stately oxen harnessed to thy wain!
Thou standest, like imperial Charlemagne,
Upon thy bridge of gold; thy royal hand
Outstretched with benedictions o'er the land,
Blessing the farms through all thy vast domain!
Thy shield is the red harvest moon, suspended
So long beneath the heaven's o'er-hanging eaves;
Thy steps are by the farmer's prayers attended;
Like flames upon an altar shine the sheaves;
And, following thee, in thy ovation splendid,
Thine almoner, the wind, scatters the golden leaves!
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Autumn"

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Capitalism w/Asian Values

from Foreign Policy
On Oct. 15, Daniel A. Bell, the author of The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy, sat on a panel hosted by Asia Society’s ChinaFile Presents series. The event, co-hosted by the New York Review of Books, also included panelists Timothy Garton Ash, Zhang Taisu, Andrew Nathan, and others, who discussed with Bell the question his book addresses — does China have an identifiable political model, and if so, what is it? The following ChinaFile conversation includes excerpts, edited for clarity, of that discussion.

Daniel A. Bell, chair professor of the Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsinghua University in Beijing and director of the Berggruen Philosophy and Culture Center:
For much of Chinese imperial history, public officials were selected first by examination and then by performance evaluations at lower levels of government. The fascinating thing is that this system has been reestablished in form over the past 30 years in China — highly imperfectly, as we’ll see. When this idea hit me, I began writing op-eds, and I was severely criticized by my liberal friends and my Confucian friends who asked, “What’s happened to this guy? He’s become a staunch defender of the government.” But that’s not what I mean.

I call my method contextual political theory: the idea that a political theorist should aim to make coherent and rationally defensible the leading political ideals of a society. I happen to find myself in China, so what are the leading political ideals of Chinese society? I label it “vertical democratic meritocracy,” the ideal that has informed political reform in China over the past 30 years. But there is still a huge gap between the ideal and the practice. This ideal is good, at least reasonably good, and can and should continue to inspire political reform in China in the foreseeable future.

What is this idea of “vertical democratic meritocracy”? This is the idea that democracy works well at lower levels of government. This is a view that Western political theorists have argued, starting with Aristotle, Montesquieu, and Rousseau. If you have a small political community the issues are fairly easy to understand, and you know the moral character of the leaders you’re choosing, thus making a strong case for democracy at the lower level. But, in a huge country, as you go up the political chain of command, the issues become more complex and mistakes become more costly.

There’s a need to institutionalize a system to select and promote leaders with superior qualities. It’s a good case for democracy at the lower level, and for meritocracy up top — and in between, we don’t exactly know what’s going to work, so there should be allowances for lots of experimentation and testing for different ways for selecting and promoting political leaders.

Democracy on the bottom, experimentation in the middle, and meritocracy on top — that’s a pretty good way of thinking about how to govern a large country, and I argue that it fits Chinese political culture pretty well. There was a terrible experiment with populism during the Cultural Revolution, so there’s a strong case to reestablish this kind of political meritocracy.

Let me say a little bit about the gap between the reality and the ideal. I am not defending the status quo. I am defending this ideal that I use as a standard to evaluate the status quo. How could it be improved? For one thing, democracy at the lower levels of government: elections at the village level have improved but there’s still a long way to go to make the elections more free and competitive. There’s a very good case for other features of democratic values and institutions to inform the political process — deliberation, consultation, public hearings, referenda. All these tools are very important, as well as certain levels of democratic elections at higher levels of government. There’s a case for more democracy. There’s also a case for better scientific evaluation of the experiments. Nowadays you have experiments at middle levels of government, but who decides whether they’re successful or not? There’s a need for more expert evaluation of what counts as success.

Timothy Garton Ash, professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford:
I think we owe Daniel a debt of gratitude for giving us a much more sophisticated version of the China model than Eric Li, Zhang Weiwei, or the egregious Col. Liu Mingfu. This is at least one we can engage with rationally.

Secondly, I think it would be a very good thing if there were a China model. It would be good for China, because it would increase the probability of a peaceful evolution. It would be good for the West, I think, because it’s good for the West to have a serious credible ideological competitor. I would argue many of the problems of the West — the hubris of the Iraq invasion, the financial crisis — are partly derived from the fact that after the end of the Cold War we did not have a serious competitor. So, it would be great if it existed.

Thirdly, and this is in agreement with Daniel, clearly there has been significant political reform and change. This is not a version of the Soviet Union. There’s policy experimentation in the cities and local government of the provinces. Anyone who’s been to a Chinese university knows that there’s fierce competition from the brightest if not the best students to be recruited to the Communist Party. All true. Nonetheless, I’m afraid that the system I see on repeated visits to China and compare with other communist and post-communist systems, is simply not the one that Daniel describes. He just said political meritocracy is not working as well as it should. But the answer is that it’s not working as well as it should, because it isn’t political meritocracy. It actually isn’t.

Let me give you one example from the book. He describes a meeting with the minister responsible for the organization department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), who describes the selection process for the secretary general of that important department. Nominations from all sides. Examinations. Examinations put out in the corridor for public scrutiny. An inspection team. Finally a vote. A wonderful meritocratic process. Now, neither Daniel nor I were actually behind those closed doors, but we know a lot about how the CCP works — and it doesn’t work like that. There is massive factionalism, factional struggle, clientelism, patronage, and corruption. We know that from numerous studies of the party, and indeed from books the party itself has published. So we know that the selection of that very important person was not the glorious theory described by the ministry of the organization committee. And incidentally, I think one thing we have to discuss with Daniel is whether he’s actually looking at the practice, in which case we have to test what he says against the practice, or the theory, in which case let’s look at the theory, which is largely Leninist. Daniel also mentioned the lack of free speech, the…worsening lack of free speech. How you can have a genuine meritocracy, when you cannot publicly canvas all the credible policy alternatives, is very hard to see. In short, I think political meritocracy is not working because it’s not political meritocracy. And I think this means it’s actually going to be very difficult for this system to manage the extremely complex challenges it’s facing as economic growth slows down, the supply of cheap labor is exhausted, and society becomes increasingly mature and educated, with higher aspirations. So I wish it were true. But I’m afraid it’s not.
Andrew J. Nathan, professor of political science at Columbia University:
Daniel has said correctly that this is a book of political theory. His training at McGill and his early writing was to promote and explain a theory called communitarianism, which is a critique of liberal democracy that is internal to the West. He’s been to China, and he’s written that when he got to some places — Singapore, Hong Kong, and then China — he found in Confucianism and in Chinese culture a version of communitarianism that seemed to him even stronger and better. So this is not really a book about the real China. It isn’t intended to be a book about the real China. It’s very easy, however, to misunderstand it as a book about the real China. But it’s really a book of theory, a book of idealism, of a model in the sense of the other meaning of the word model — as something that we might imagine as a kind of blueprint. I want people to understand that Daniel himself is describing the book as a book of theory. What is the theory behind it? Bell mentions three levels: democracy, experimentation, and meritocracy. It is chiefly a defense of political meritocracy. So that’s the key to his argument. And what is meritocracy? It’s the selection of leaders who have both ability and virtue, and virtue is very important to Daniel as a political philosopher and as an ethical philosopher.

My big disagreement with the book is whether the meritocratic selection of people by ability and virtue produces a better form of government. And I think the core fallacy in that argument as theory is that it overlooks the exercise of power. It focuses on the selection of rulers but doesn’t pay attention to how those rulers are checked and balanced and overseen by a free society. Whether the Chinese system or whether an imaginary meritocratic system could actually select better people than democracy selects is speculative. I admit that democracy doesn’t always select the best people. I think that examples that we’ve seen of dictatorships also show us that they don’t usually select the best people. Whether Xi Jinping is a man of ethical superiority, I doubt, and I think Obama is probably a more virtuous person than Xi Jinping, but who knows? The key to democracy is not in the selection of leaders. The selection of leaders is very important, but what makes democracy better than authoritarianism is the checking of leaders by the freedom of others, and this is a point I think that Daniel overlooks, though he has acknowledged what he calls a gap between the ideal and the practice in China. That gap is not an accident. That gap is produced by the structure of the political system. When he talks in his book about liberal democracy, he doesn’t talk about a gap between the ideal and the practice. He just talks about the imperfections of actual liberal democracies, as they are in practice, and those imperfections exist.

Taisu Zhang, associate professor at the Duke University School of Law:
I want to further follow on this theoretical discussion. One theoretical concern I had reading the book was whether the book is actually comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges. The argument of the book goes like this: There is a theory of political meritocracy, which is partially embodied in the Chinese system. It has the potential to generate better governance results, better governance outcomes than this arguably flawed model of Western democracy. In a sense, you are judging both the Chinese model and the Western model on whether it generates good governance results. But that is, to some political theorists, kind of a strange way to judge the Western democratic model, because the Western democratic model initially conceived, especially for example in the early American republic, was not necessarily purely or even primarily designed to generate good governance results. It was designed to further the democratic ideal of one person, one vote, of representative government. The core virtue of democratic government was in the innate legitimacy and the innate justice of elections, of the selection process. In which case, arguing that democracy tends to generate bad governance results tends to miss the theoretical point of what actually makes democracy go in democratic countries. And you could even further this point to discuss whether this also overlooks some certain theoretical aspects of the meritocracy model.

For example, if you look at the meritocracy model and how it functions in late imperial China by the examination system, because of the shrinking of the size of the state throughout the Qing [dynasty], the state goes from extracting eight to nine percent of GDP per year as state revenue to pretty much less than one percent by the end of the dynasty. The increasing insignificance of the state meant that generating good governance via the state itself was of increasing less importance. But that said, the overwhelming social importance of the examination still held. And why was that? Because in the mind of Chinese elites, this is the only just way, the only socially legitimate way to select leaders, through an open, transparent, free-for-all academic examination. So there is also an element of selection-based legitimacy in the meritocracy model as well. Even purely evaluating that model on the basis of whether it generates good governance results may be overlooking some of the other things that go into whether that model actually functions or not. Perhaps a separate question the book should perhaps ask, but at this point does not fully ask, is — does either model agree with the perceived social legitimacy of selection in either society? Are they actually selecting leaders in a perceived-to-be legitimate way, based on the conditions of their own society? Of course what is perceived to be a legitimate way of selection evolves over time, and you could argue that in China today, what may be the most socially legitimate way and socially popular way of selecting leaders may be considerably more democratic than the party allows. That could be a problem.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Progressive Dreams...

Out of the ruins and rubble
Out of the smoke
Out of our night of struggle
Can we see a ray of hope?
One pale thin ray reaching for the day

We can build a beautiful city
Yes, we can; Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city
Not a city of angels
But we can build a city of man

We may not reach the ending
But we can start
Slowly but truly mending
Brick by brick, heart by heart
Now, maybe now
We start learning how

We can build a beautiful city
Yes, we can; Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city
Not a city of angels
But we can build a city of man

When your trust is all but shattered
When your faith is all but killed
You can give up, bitter and battered
Or you can slowly start to build

A beautiful city
Yes, we can; Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city
Not a city of angels
But finally a city of man.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Binge Watching Marathons...

Krákumál (Death Song of Ragnar Lodbrok)

We hewed with the brand!
Long since we went to Gothland for the slaying of the Worm,
There I won Thora and my name of Leathern-Breeches,
Since I pierced that serpent through, with my blade of inlaid steel.

We hewed with the brand!
Young was I when east of Oere-sound we made good breakfast for the wolves,
While our steels sang on the high-crested helms much food did they find,
Blood-stained the sea, the ravens waded through.

We hewed with the brand!
Ere twenty years passed o'er us, high-borne were our spears,
At Dvina's mouth in the far east eight jarls did we lay low,
Warriors died; the crimson death colored the sea and ravens feasted.

We hewed with the brand!
The war-queen loved us when we sent the Helsinga to Odin's halls,
Keen bit the feathered arrow when our ships reached Iva's flood East Baltic ,
Gay was the music of sword on breast-plate and cleft shield.

We hewed with the brand!
Great was our courage when fierce Herraudr, 'mid his winged steeds, died.
No jarl more fearless sent his framing coursers o'er the main;
His stout heart drove him, fearless, by the sea-fowls' haunt.

We hewed with the brand!
The brand bit sore at Scarpa-reef Scarborough , the sword flew from its sheath,
Crimson the borders of our moon-shields when King Raven died;
Loud roared the spear on Ulla's field, as low lay Eystan the King.

We hewed with the brand!
O'er us was fated Herthiof to win a mighty victory,
There fell my son, bold Rognvald, before the host of spears.
His bow, unerring, shot in Sudorey Hebrides its last fatal bolt.

We hewed with the brand!
In Ireland King Marstan let not the she-wolf nor the eagle starve.
A sacrifice he made at Wetherford Waterford , for the steel-thorn issuing from its sheath,
Pierced to the heart of Ragnar, fearless son of mine.

We hewed with the brand!
South we played at war with three kings, the blood of the Irish dyed the sea,
Then stormed we to the sword-play at the river-mouth of Anglesey,
No kissing of a girl was it to fight as we fought there.

We hewed with the brand!
Little did I wot that at the hands of Ella my death should come!
Yet what boots it? None can withstand his fate and well is it
To quaff the mead in skull-boughs drinking horns in the great hall of Odin.

We hewed with the brand!
Before cold death does no brave man quail; no thought of fear have I.
Soon with the battle wake when Aslaug's sons their bitter blades unsheath,
Soon will they learn the manner of my death, stout hearts of their brave mother!

We hewed with the brand!
My life is well-nigh o'er; sharp is the pang that the serpent gives.
Goinn the Snake, nests deep in my heart. No more will my children rest;
Great wrath will be theirs at the undoing of their sire.

We hewed with the brand!
Full gladly do I go! See the Valkyrjar fresh from Odin's halls!
High-seated among heroes shall I quaff the yellow-mead.
The Aesir welcome me. Laughing gladly do I die!

The complete Old Norse skaldic poem "Krákumál" (Lay of Kráka), probably composed at the end of the 12th century on Iceland, consists of 29 stanzas.

In 1782, Rev. James Johnstone translated the above 13 stanzas. He was an eminent Scandinavian antiquary, and for some years chaplain to the English envoy extraordinary in Denmark.

Ragnar Lodbrok (Ragnar 'Hairy-Breeches', Old Norse: Ragnarr Loðbrók) was a semi-legendary king of Sweden and Denmark who reigned sometime in the eighth or ninth centuries. As the "Ragnars saga loðbrókar" has it, he was a renowned Viking and dragon-killer. He died bravely, laughing in the face of death, in a snakepit in which his enemy Ælla of Northumbria had him thrown. His sons avenge him.

Note that Ragnar has a vision of entering Valhall even though he does *not* die in battle ! This is one of ca. five similar instances in written lore when a non-battle death still leaves the hero eligible for Valhall. These examples are usually ignored in modern heathen discussions about who goes or doesn´t go to Valhall...

"We hewed with the brand" = We fought with the sword.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Patriarchal Fantasies

Red alluring dress
Wearing a woman.
Dirty back:
Red versus black, -
Designers applauding.
I envy God
Not power, but the vision.
Quivering eyelashes will
Furbish the dirty feet
Smelling of Mother - - -
Let's get acquainted.
After all
Man's longing
Is measured by
- Red Mint, "Red Dress" (2014)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Consumed by Indifference...

I can love both fair and brown,
Her whom abundance melts, and her whom want betrays,
Her who loves loneness best, and her who masks and plays,
Her whom the country formed, and whom the town,
Her who believes, and her who tries,
Her who still weeps with spongy eyes,
And her who is dry cork, and never cries;
I can love her, and her, and you, and you,
I can love any, so she be not true.

Will no other vice content you?
Will it not serve your turn to do as did your mothers?
Or have you all old vices spent, and now would find out others?
Or doth a fear that men are true torment you?
O we are not, be not you so;
Let me, and do you, twenty know.
Rob me, but bind me not, and let me go.
Must I, who came to travail thorough you,
Grow your fixed subject, because you are true?

Venus heard me sigh this song,
And by love's sweetest part, variety, she swore,
She heard not this till now; and that it should be so no more.
She went, examined, and returned ere long,
And said, Alas! some two or three
Poor heretics in love there be,
Which think to ’stablish dangerous constancy.
But I have told them, Since you will be true,
You shall be true to them who are false to you.
- John Donne, "The Indifferent"

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Gaps in the Order of Being

- Transcript
“Love desires personality; therefore love desires division. It is the instinct of Christianity to be glad that God has broken the universe into little pieces. […] This is the intellectual abyss between Buddhism and Christianity; what for the Buddhist (or Theosophist) personality is the fall of man, for the Christian is the purpose of God, the whole point of his cosmic idea. The world-soul of the Theosophists [or Buddhist] asks man to love it only in order that man may throw himself into it. But the divine center of Christianity actually threw man out of it in order that he might love it. […] All modern philosophies are chains which connect and fetter; Christianity is a sword which separates and sets free. No other philosophy makes God actually rejoice in the separation of the universe into different living souls.”
G.K. Chesterton, "Orthodoxy"

Friday, October 2, 2015


The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,

Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
- William Shakespeare, "Sonnet 129"

Thursday, October 1, 2015


παροικία, παροικίας, ἡ (παροικέω, which see), a Biblical and ecclesiastical word a dwelling near or with one; hence, a sojourning, dwelling in a strange land: properly, Acts 13:17 (2 Esdr. 8:35; Psalm 119:5 (); Wis. 19:10; Prol. of Sir. 21; cf. Fritzsche on Judith 5:9). Metaphorically, the life of man here on earth, likened to a sojourning: 1 Peter 1:17 (Genesis 47:9); see παρεπίδημος (and references under παροικέω).
Thayer's Greek Lexicon
Despite the prevailing mood of constricted parochialism that pervades the Christian faith and the commonly presumed vision of the Church as a world within the world, an enclave much like a gated community, the very notion of "parish" - given its Greek etymology of "paroikia" - was to begin with meant to refer to a world as the place where you're kept from forget(ting) you're not here to stay, but (moreover, immediately Boutin adds) on a journey.
- Gabriel Vahanian, "Theopoetics of the World"